Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Journey of Faith 5

Each fall for 15 years, up to 100 people gathered every Wednesday night at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, to explore the meaning of the Sacred Journey. Led by the Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey, the participants in the class listened and talked about their own journey and the journey of others. The class affirmed the individual nature of each journey and each person's need to explore the questions that can shape their path. The people who journeyed together each fall learned about prayer, community, death and resurrection. They heard questions and reflections from others, and through them came to a better understanding of their own spiritual growth.

We have included an overview of the Journey material here in hopes that some of the ideas may help you on your own Spiritual path. The questions are meant for you to ask yourself and those traveling with you. Use those that are meaningful to you as guideposts, pointing down a road you may not yet have explored.

Prayer is food for the journey. Many times we think of prayer as public prayer, and that makes us uncomfortable. Yet prayer can also be a deep and personal conversation with God. Prayer gives us time to acknowledge God's presence in and around us, to acknowledge our place in the world that God has created, and to stop and wait on Jesus. There are no experts on prayer, only beginners. It is not something we learn in a book, but something we must learn by doing over and over again...a practice we must adjust as our journey continues.

Prayer can be expressed in many forms. The starting point for our prayers may be simple one-liners; later we may progress to fuller conversations with God. Some people pray by facing a 'Jesus chair'...a chair where they can visualize Jesus sitting and listening to their deepest concerns. Other people organize prayers using the ACTS acrostic: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. Adoration is expressing our love for Jesus. Formulating prayers of adoration can be difficult and unfamiliar. If you have trouble expressing adoration, you might try referring to Psalms and hymns, which often contain the words to express our feelings.

While we understand the meaning of confession and thanksgiving, these may not be part of our prayers. When we pray, if we pray, we most likely say words of supplication. These are our petitions or requests to God to address our needs and to intercede on the behalf of others. Incorporating all of the elements of ACTS in our prayers provides a simple way to broaden our conversations with God.

Another form of prayer is repetitive prayer. The most common is the Lord's Prayer, which also contains all the elements of the ACTS acrostic. Other repetitive prayers include the Serenity Prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous—God grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference—and the Jesus Prayer—Lord, Jesus Christ have mercy on me, hasten to help me, rescue me and save me, do your will in my life. These are
prayers that can be committed to memory and repeated when we need food for the journey but just don't know how to be more specific.

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